Get outdoors: Go mountain biking
Mountain biking is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. Guest writer Richard Beck gives us his lowdown on getting into mountain biking.
Basic MTB techniques
The first point is to get out and ride your bike on local tracks and trails. This will help you to get a feel for this style of off-road cycling. Look for natural obstacles and irregular trail surfaces of rocks, roots, ruts, and sand to test out different techniques. Practice:
- Pick a line by scanning 20ft ahead and identifying a path suited to your skill level.
- Maintain a neutral position with level pedals, eyes forward and knees and elbows slightly bent until obstacles arise. Then, shift to attack position, with deeply bent knees and elbows to absorb shocks.
- Braking should be consistent and controlled, with even application on front and back brakes. At the same time, move your hips back and drop your heels to help balance.
- Brake ahead of obstacles, but then allow momentum to carry you through to raise speed.
- Shift gears often and early to maintain your cycling cadence and avoid chain damage.
- Remember that there is a chance you might will fall off, and, if you do, keep your arms in to avoid harm. Then, inspect your bike and equipment, using your multi-tool, to make repairs.
Types of MTB bikes
When choosing a bike you should go to your local bicycle shop where their experts will help find the right bike for you. Think about:
- Select from a range of manufacturer styles of simple trail bikes, agile cross-country models, technical all-mountain bikes, durable downhill models and traction-oriented fat bikes.
- Then, choose a suspension. Rigid bikes have none but are cheaper and easier to maintain. Hardtail bikes have a front fork, while full-suspension models add a rear shock absorber.
- Wheel size varies from children’s 20 to 24 inch sizes to standard 26 inch bikes, more manoeuvrable 27.5-inch wheel models and cross-country focused 29-inch wheels.
- Once you have selected your bike, you should ensure that it is the right height for you based on your stand-over height and then take it for a test ride. From there, it’s time to get your gear.
Options for MTB gear
Mountain biking does not shy away from the rough and tumbles of the outdoors, so you should not shy away from protection.
Your helmet should provide greater coverage than standard road bike helmets. Be sure to find one that is level on your head with a snug fit but without obscuring your vision.
Tops, shorts and tights should all be made from wicking material that allows sweat to escape (it can be a sweaty sport!) and fabric that dries quickly. Try on each item to ensure that it does not limit your range of motion.
Bike-specific socks will protect your feet from cold, water and blisters.
Gloves, meanwhile, provide protection, padding and insulation.
Sunglasses also protect your eyes from debris and sunlight alike.
In addition, a hydration backpack will help you stay hydrated and store extra clothing, snacks, a first aid kit and repair kit. The latter should include a spare tube, hand pump or inflator, and small multi-tool for repairs.
How to choose a trail
Once you have your bike and gear, you should try to ride on easier, smoother trails first. After that you can progress to more challenging options. However, it is important to recognise your limits and choose carefully.
Trail types are generally broken down by expertise and terrain. Many, at trail centres, are graded in the UK from green (easier), through blue, red and black.
More natural singletrack offers other challenges and in Scotland you can escape for your own style of MTB adventure. Remember to take a map, compass and mobile phone for additional safety.
Mountain biking offers plenty of opportunities for great adventures, whether it’s an afternoon at a centre of a multi-day ride across the country.
- Richard Beck is an keen outdoors fan that manages the website Outdoors Pro.